The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of gear

The Best Hiking Pants

The stretchy fabric on these pants was comfortable and quite mobile  although at times felt a bit rough  a common complaint with all synthetic pants.
Tuesday November 5, 2019
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We love a good pair of hiking pants. We've spent the last 8 years testing 35 different ones. Most recently, we bought and tested 12 of the best models available for an in-depth examination. Our trail-hound experts went hiking and backpacking in all these models for months to learn their strengths and weaknesses in areas like comfort, mobility, breathability, and water resistance, among other factors. After sharing notes and scoring the products comparatively, we determined the best pants for the majority of hikers and our favorite bargain pair, as well as top products for specific uses like climbing and hiking in wet weather.

Related: The Best Hiking Pants for Women


Top 12 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 12
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Best Overall


Outdoor Research Ferrosi Pants


Editors' Choice Award

$49.98
(38% off)
at Amazon
See It

77
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort and Mobility - 35% 9
  • Venting and Breathability - 20% 9
  • Versatility - 15% 7
  • Water Resistance - 15% 6
  • Features - 15% 5
Material: 86% nylon / 14% spandex | Weight: 9.4 oz
Very light fabric is highly breathable
Stretch fabric offers superior mobility
Look good for everyday wear
Too light for cold, windy days
Waist fit is larger than expected

We think that the Outdoor Research Ferrosi is the best overall pair of hiking pants we tested. They are extremely comfortable, offer a high degree of mobility, keep you cool as you work up a sweat, and are versatile enough to be worn in the rain or sunshine. They are made of durable ripstop fabric, and incorporate a higher-than-average 14% spandex to ensure maximum mobility for hiking, running, yoga, or high stepping on rock. They are also very light, thin, and highly breathable, making them an ideal choice for hot weather.

The thin 90D ripstop fabric is some of the most breathable that we tested, but on the flip side, it means that these pants are not ideal on cold or windy days; they just don't provide quite enough protection for skinny legs. We also couldn't help but notice that the waist sizing is a bit off. These pants want to sit lower on the hips. For our testers, they needed to wear their typical waist size with a belt to make them functional. Even so, we think that they are an awesome all-purpose pair that especially shine in hot weather.

Read Review: Outdoor Research Ferrosi Pants

Best Bang for the Buck


REI Co-op Sahara Roll-Up


Best Buy Award

$59.95
at REI
See It

67
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort and Mobility - 35% 7
  • Venting and Breathability - 20% 7
  • Versatility - 15% 5
  • Water Resistance - 15% 7
  • Features - 15% 7
Material: 94% Nylon/6% Spandex, DWR coating | Weight: 9.5 oz
Sheds water well
Comfortable material
Integrated belt
Pocket closures have issues
Not stylish
Snap buttons could be up higher

As one of the least expensive pants that we tested, the REI Co-op Sahara Roll-Up is one of the best values around. They have a relaxed and comfortable fit. Despite the low price, this pair is highly water-resistant and comes with a bunch of features. It has six pockets, including two front, two rear, and two cargo pockets on the side. The integrated belt features a simple slide buckle that is comfortable under a backpacking waist belt. The namesake feature offers ventilation by securing the lower legs via snaps if you choose to roll them up.

We found that these pants are either a love 'em or hate 'em kind of pair. The fit may be too baggy for some. We also don't like the lack of zippers on the rear pockets, and the flap covers make it challenging to pull out items. All things considered, though, we are delighted with the performance of the Sahara Roll-Up and would recommend this pair to anyone who prioritizes functionality and value.

Read Review: REI Co-op Sahara Roll-Up

Best for Climbing


Prana Stretch Zion


Top Pick Award

$59.98
(29% off)
at Backcountry
See It

74
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort and Mobility - 35% 9
  • Venting and Breathability - 20% 6
  • Versatility - 15% 8
  • Water Resistance - 15% 5
  • Features - 15% 7
Material: 97% Nylon / 3% Spandex | Weight: 13.6 oz
Very comfortable fabric and fit
Agile
A solid set of minimalist features
Convertible option available
Water resistance
A bit warm in hot climates

The Prana Stretch Zion is our top pant recommendation for climbing — a testament to their durability and versatility. We love the cargo pocket with zippers on both sides, enabling us to easily reach a phone or topo while sitting at a belay. We also enjoy the small but practical, integrated waist tightener, which means these pants can stay on without a belt. This feature is especially beneficial for typical weight loss after a week or two on the trail. Combined with some of the softest and most comfortable, stretchy fabric of any of the models we tested, it is no wonder that these pants are one of our favorite models.

While these were our top pair of pants for climbing, they are not without their flaws. The fabric is a bit heavy and densely woven for hiking in hot weather. They are much more effective when the temperature is on the cooler side. They also aren't as water-resistant as most, so if wet weather is in your future, look elsewhere. However, if comfort is your top priority, then we would strongly recommend trying on this pair of pants.

Read Review: Prana Stretch Zion

Best for Weather Resistance


Arc'teryx Gamma LT Pant


Top Pick Award

$126.71
(33% off)
at Amazon
See It

76
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort and Mobility - 35% 8
  • Venting and Breathability - 20% 6
  • Versatility - 15% 8
  • Water Resistance - 15% 9
  • Features - 15% 7
Material: 84% nylon / 16% elastane | Weight: 11.6 oz
Comfort
Best in class weather resistance
Look great
Lacks rear pockets
Price

The Arc'teryx Gamma LT is the splurgy hiker's dream. They are super comfortable, lightweight, and great for a variety of activities. Their water and wind resistance make them a great choice for cool, wet-weather hikes. They also come equipped with a drawstring at the cuff, so if the sun comes out and the temperature rises, you can roll them up and keep cool. These strings at the cuff can even perform double-duty, converting to makeshift gaiters if needed. We're also fans of the integrated belt on the Gamma LT. The features they do include are thoughtful, and the fabric offers superior stretch.

The primary drawback is that these pants are pricey. You could certainly spend less on a different model and not tell too much of a difference. We also think it is an unusual choice not to include any rear pockets. Even with these things in mind, we can't help but love this model. We will definitely be pulling on a pair during future adventures, especially when inclement weather is in the forecast.

Read Review: Arc'teryx Gamma LT Pant


Hiking pants should stretch across multiple areas of outdoor recreation --  hiking  backpacking  or simply scrambling around on the rocks  as we are here at Sparks Lake  OR.
Hiking pants should stretch across multiple areas of outdoor recreation -- hiking, backpacking, or simply scrambling around on the rocks, as we are here at Sparks Lake, OR.

Why You Should Trust Us


Lead testers Ben Applebaum-Bauch and Andy Wellman live for the backcountry. Andy is an avid climber, hiker, and alpine skier. He has published multiple bouldering and climbing guides to the American southwest and knows the value that a comfortable, protective pair of hiking pants can provide. Ben got his professional start in the outdoor industry as a trip guide and has led multi-week adventures throughout northern New England. He is also an avid thru-hiker, passing under the baking sun of the Pacific Crest Trail and moving through the whipping winds and summer hail storms of the Colorado, Long, and Appalachian trails.

We started our process by researching dozens of models. We then selected our top choices, bought them all, and got down to hands-on testing. We took them out in the rain, shine, and wind. We tested these pants in a variety of locations, including the Cascades of Oregon, the desert of Southern Utah, the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, and the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The majority of our testing took place on hikes and camping adventures. We look at each pair's comfort and mobility and how well they protected us from the elements; whether they kept us dry in the rain or allowed us to stay cool in the damp heat of summer. In addition to a variety of activities on the trail, we wore them for everyday use, hoping to get a compliment or two on our refined style.

Related: How We Tested Hiking Pants

The Stretch Zion pants have long been a favorite pair among our testers and friends. Here we are checking out Cascade Falls from behind the water during low season  not something you can do most of the year.
Testing a pair of pants on a hike out to a far off cliff at Smith Rock State Park  with rain threatening.
These pants offer enough stretch and mobility to avoid restricting range of motion.

Analysis and Test Results


To accurately rate each product, we assessed them in five separate metrics that we feel are critical to the performance and quality of any pair of hiking pants: comfort and mobility, venting and breathability, versatility, water resistance, and features. Each metric is weighted based on our assessment of its relative importance to the overall function of a pair of hiking pants. Though some models excel in particular areas, in all cases, we rate pants based on their performance compared to the competition. That is, the highest-scoring model from our testing is the best overall model. We carefully consider the weight of each metric relative to the others, but we recognize that each wearer is going to have different priorities. If, for example, versatility is most vital to you, we encourage you not just to look at a product's overall score, but to also focus in on that specific metric within to discover how each product performed at a more granular level.

Related: Buying Advice for Hiking Pants


Value


Value isn't included in a product's overall score, but it is an important consideration in any purchase. While the adage, "you get what you pay for" often rings true, our years of testing experience have taught us that the highest-priced products are not necessarily the highest performing. For us, value is the price of an item relative to its overall score. That is, models with higher scores and lower prices are considered a better value than those with lower scores and higher prices. In this case, the Outdoor Research Ferrosi, Patagonia Quandry, and REI Sahara Roll-Up are examples of models that have good value.

The Renegade Cargo Convertible is an awesome hiking pant that can be used all over the outdoors. Here we are on an evening hike on the backside of Smith Rock in Oregon  with a mighty Cascade volcano in the background.
The Renegade Cargo Convertible is an awesome hiking pant that can be used all over the outdoors. Here we are on an evening hike on the backside of Smith Rock in Oregon, with a mighty Cascade volcano in the background.

Comfort and Mobility


The most critical consideration for most outdoor clothing is how comfortable it is. In the context of hiking pants, comfort means that the pair moves and stretches with the wearer; not limiting, not pinching, not rubbing or riding up, not annoying or distracting. The product should enhance your outdoor experience, not detract from it. Our thinking is that if it isn't comfortable, the rest of the metrics probably don't matter nearly as much.


Comfort goes hand-in-hand with mobility. The more a model facilitates free movement, the better. The majority of pants in this review achieve their comfort by incorporating some amount of stretchy material, such as spandex or elastane, to increase user mobility.

Trails that require high steps highlight the lack of mobility in the all-nylon Silver Ridge pants.
Trails that require high steps highlight the lack of mobility in the all-nylon Silver Ridge pants.

Some pants, such as the Patagonia Quandary, have a slim fit but compensate with an increased stretchiness, maintaining mobility for the wearer. The Arc'Teryx Gamma LT and Outdoor Research Ferrosi include a higher proportion of elastane, increasing their mobility. The high-scoring Prana Brion and Prana Stretch Zion have lower proportions of stretchy material, but they somehow perform well-above what one might expect based on the numbers alone. This is due, at least in part, to the multi-directional elasticity of their fabrics.

The felt liner inside the Ferrosi waist is a nice touch that minimizes abrasion and increases comfort.
The felt liner inside the Ferrosi waist is a nice touch that minimizes abrasion and increases comfort.

Other models, such as the Fjallraven Vidda Pro or REI Sahara Roll-Up pants, offer minimal stretch in the fabric and promote mobility with a looser, more relaxed cut. The Kuhl Radikl pants also have a more regular fit, but include strategically placed panels of super stretchy fabric at the knees, crotch, and lower back, to facilitate mobility. The cut is also an essential factor but could be heavily dependent on the body type and shape of the wearer.

We tried out all contenders for a lot more than just hiking. Dune running can test how comfortable they are and how freely a pair allows you to move.
We tried out all contenders for a lot more than just hiking. Dune running can test how comfortable they are and how freely a pair allows you to move.

As we move into the bottom of the review metric, we have pants like the Arc'Teryx Lefroy and The North Face Paramount Active, which have a slim fit that just feels pretty restrictive. The Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible pants have a different issue — their material is fairly static. Paired with a waist that stretches slightly after many wears, and they don't stay up as well as models with an integrated belt, or more resilient fabric.

Venting and Breathability


We love hiking pants for their ability to protect from the wind, cold, and underbrush. However, if you are using them primarily for sun protection, you know that venting and breathability are also key. The best hiking pants are going to shield the wearer from the elements while keeping them cool and dry. Breathability is a quality of certain types of fabric that refers to the ability to release heat and moisture. This can vary based on fabric thickness, weave density, and material. Venting refers to specific features included in a pair of pants that facilitate the same. Things like zippered vents, mesh-lined pockets, and rollable cuffs are types of vents.


To assess venting and breathability, we primarily rely on field testing. Much of this time is in the direct rays of the desert sun, where we could quickly work up a sweat. We also test each pair in a more controlled setting, running up the same incline in similar weather conditions, paying close attention to how effectively each pair kept us cool relative to the others.

Running uphill in the sun on a hot day to test the venting and breathability capabilities of each pair of pants. The Stretch Zion were a pretty warm pant overall  and we preferred them for cooler weather.
Running uphill in the sun on a hot day to test the venting and breathability capabilities of each pair of pants. The Stretch Zion were a pretty warm pant overall, and we preferred them for cooler weather.

Not surprisingly, the pants made of the lightest and thinnest fabric tended to be the most breathable, while the pants with the most mesh and zippered vents cooled us off the quickest and prevented us from getting too sweaty in the first place. The Outdoor Research Ferrosi is the lightest, thinnest, and by far the most breathable pair in this test, making them a top choice for wearing in warm to hot climates. The REI Sahara Roll-Up is a pleasant surprise in this category with thin and breathable fabric, though their roll-up function could stand some improvement, in our opinion. The KUHL Radikl incorporates super stretchy spandex panels for comfort, but they also notably increase ventilation in key areas. The pants that we find are the least breathable are also the thickest and heaviest and have the fewest vents. With its extraordinarily dense and heavy G-1000 fabric and no vents, the Fjallraven Vidda Pro is a pant designed exclusively for cooler weather. The Arc-Teryx Lefroy also has thicker fabric — great for wind resistance — less impressive on breathability.

In addition to having lightweight fabric  these award winners offer the ability to cinch up in a pinch if you left your shorts at home.
In addition to having lightweight fabric, these award winners offer the ability to cinch up in a pinch if you left your shorts at home.

Versatility


Versatility is a model's ability to maintain functionality in a variety of conditions and activities. In the backcountry, the most versatile pants should be able to handle intense sun, heat, wind, rain, cold, bugs, and brush while hiking, climbing, and even paddling. In the front country, they should also be functional enough for long-haul travel, everyday outdoor work, and stylish enough to wear out on a casual weekend.

Convertibility (from pants to shorts) increases a pant's versatility. If versatility is a top priority for you, be sure to check out whether or not a pair that we have reviewed also comes in an option with removable legs. Lots of them do!


Made with durable nylon and offering many venting options as well as the ability to convert into shorts, we found the KUHL Renegade Cargo Convertible to be the most versatile pair of pants that we tested for this review. They kept us cool while hiking uphill in the sun, and were also thick enough to protect us from the cold and wind. We also liked wearing them around town and while working outside. They also proved to be an adequate climbing pant as well.

We like the ability to roll up our pants leg as temps rise. The best pairs stay up after you roll them up.
We like the ability to roll up our pants leg as temps rise. The best pairs stay up after you roll them up.

A close second is the Prana Stretch Zion, which we find to be slightly warmer, and also comes in a convertible option. The Arc'Teryx Gamma LT are also tops in versatility. The Outdoor Research Ferrosi, Arc'Teryx Lefroy, and The North Face Paramount Active served us well whether out hiking with a pack on or traveling. The last two have a slimmer fit, making them more stylish and passable in front country social settings.

Our inflexibility aside  this model is great for front country activities as well.

Water Resistance


If rain is in the forecast, you'll want to be protected. Though none of the pants in this review claim to be fully waterproof, quality water resistance is a huge bonus for a pair of hiking pants. We also consider wind resistance when assessing performance. Together, both of these characteristics can be tricky to balance with venting and breathability, but some models in this review have decent success.


To that end, most of these pants are designed to keep you as dry as possible while remaining lightweight and comfortable. To achieve this, most pairs come with a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) coating applied to the outside. This chemical coating helps the fabric shed precipitation. These treatments do wear off over time, especially if you wash your pants frequently in the washing machine, so if you are planning a long trip with a much-beloved pair of pants, you should apply a new DWR finish before you head out.

Our testers appreciating his pants' high water resistance when the rain started pouring down at Smith Rock  ruining the day of climbing  but leaving the ground and sparse vegetation happily nourished.
Our testers appreciating his pants' high water resistance when the rain started pouring down at Smith Rock, ruining the day of climbing, but leaving the ground and sparse vegetation happily nourished.

To test water resistance, we wore these pants outside as often as we could in wet weather. For a slightly more controlled environment, we also conduct a shower test: we put the pants on and jump into a shower for a fixed amount of time. We also use a spray bottle to evenly spritz the outside of the pants to understand the process of saturation and water beading. Things we look for are how well the DWR coating works right off the rack and after washing. Some pants absorb water faster, but take longer to saturate overall, meaning that it takes longer for water to actually reach the wearer's skin. Another important feature is how long the pants take to dry out after the skies clear.

The DWR coating on the Gamma LT facilitates excellent beading.
The DWR coating on the Gamma LT facilitates excellent beading.

The most weather resistant pants are the Patagonia Quandary, Arc'teryx Gamma LT, and Arc'teryx Lefroy. The DWR coating on these models does a great job of shedding water even after a lot of wear, and there is minimal absorption. These pants also dry out quickly since the water stays on the surface. The Gamma LT stands out as a step above, balancing water resistance and comfort and mobility the best. These pants also have eyelets on their distal cuffs that allow you to turn them into makeshift gaiters by threading your shoelaces through them. This secures the pant leg around the shaft of your footwear, should you want to do so.

Testing the water resistance after applying quite a lot of Greenland wax treatment to the Vidda Pro. These pants extend their versatility well into winter  which is what we expect from a pant born above the arctic circle.
Testing the water resistance after applying quite a lot of Greenland wax treatment to the Vidda Pro. These pants extend their versatility well into winter, which is what we expect from a pant born above the arctic circle.

We are intrigued by the performance of the wax impregnated Fjallraven Vidda Pro pant, which eschews the now-standard chemical DWR coating in favor of a more natural and customizable treatment. So long as you are willing to take the time for the initial treatment, they can withstand moisture about as well as (or better than!) any other pair in this review. But, with the other pairs, you don't have to work so hard for it.

Customizable water resistance comes in the form of wax impregnation. Here we test the system out by rubbing Greenland wax all over the pants  later ironing it into the fabric.
Customizable water resistance comes in the form of wax impregnation. Here we test the system out by rubbing Greenland wax all over the pants, later ironing it into the fabric.

Features


Features are all of the parts of a pair of pants beyond what is minimally necessary. These are the thoughtful design elements that enhance a wearer's experience. Each pair has its own set of unique features, including the type and number of pockets and their location, waist tightening systems, and belts, roll-up snaps/cinches, ventilation holes, and crotch zippers. Some of these features were functional additions that inspired our adoration, while others were excessive and frustrating.


Our primary focus during testing was whether the features included proved to be practical and functional. For example, having the option to roll up the legs and cinch them down when the weather gets warmer is useful, and we did a similar analysis of pocket layout and location, as well as for waist tightening systems.

The single cargo pocket on the Stretch Zion has the cool feature of being zipper enclosed on both the top and the side. When sitting in a harness  the side entrance becomes very convenient.
The single cargo pocket on the Stretch Zion has the cool feature of being zipper enclosed on both the top and the side. When sitting in a harness, the side entrance becomes very convenient.

In short, the more useful and functional features a pant included, the higher the score. Products that received a lower rating either included few useful features, or the features that they had didn't function nearly as well as competitors. Favorite features among our testers include pockets that are large enough to be functional (AKA our phones won't fall out!), integrated belts, and the ability to roll up (and keep up) pant legs.

A feature unique to the Quandary is this drawstring on the inside of the waist belt that helps make micro-tuned adjustments to the fit  and helps you avoid needing to wear a belt underneath a pack waist strap. You can also see the mesh wicking material inside the waist belt designed to allow sweat moisture to evaporate quicker.
A feature unique to the Quandary is this drawstring on the inside of the waist belt that helps make micro-tuned adjustments to the fit, and helps you avoid needing to wear a belt underneath a pack waist strap. You can also see the mesh wicking material inside the waist belt designed to allow sweat moisture to evaporate quicker.

The KUHL Renegade pant boasts the best feature set. It has a ton of pocket options for those who like to have all their trail trinkets handy and organized, as well as excellent ventilation and the ability to convert to shorts. The Prana Stretch Zion has fewer pockets than the KUHL pants, but the design and execution of its features are nearly flawless. We love the small, low profile waist tightener that allowed us to backpack and climb without wearing a belt. Features account for 15% of a product's final score.

The Vidda Pro are by far the most burly and durable pant that we tested for this review  and also have a ton of large pockets for storage. We think they are ideal for hunting or other bushcraft.
The Vidda Pro are by far the most burly and durable pant that we tested for this review, and also have a ton of large pockets for storage. We think they are ideal for hunting or other bushcraft.

Conclusion


Hiking pants offer a large handful of benefits, often for activities beyond hiking and backpacking. With so many options on the market, the challenge is trying to decide which ones to buy. While comfort is usually a top priority, the climate in which you spend most of your time can dictate what other metrics are most important to you. Happy trails!


Ben Applebaum-Bauch & Andy Wellman